UPDATE: The talented team of engineers ended up placing 7th overall out of 95 entries. Congratulations guys and gals! The original article continues below.
The University Rover Challenge has been held every summer in Utah by the Mars Society. It’s a competition open to universities worldwide that encourages students to develop skills in robotics, improve the state-of-the-art in rovers, and work in multi-disciplinary teams with collaboration between scientists and engineers. Students design and build their own version of a mars rover vehicle.
The competition includes various challenges such as the autonomous travel mission, equipment servicing mission, deliver mission and science mission, where must take sub-surface soil samples and analyze them for the likelihood to support microbial life including the geological context such as evidence of water flow.
For the 2018 competition, which was held May 30 to June 2 of this year, the team from Manipal University chose the Stevens HydraProbe as the soil moisture measurement instrument, part of a 3-component system that drills a hole in the soil to depth of 10cm, measures the soil moisture and temperature, and computes whether the soil at that location is suitable for collection for further laboratory analysis (in which case a physical sample is collected).
No doubt that the engineering students at Manipal University felt that the HydraProbe would be a suitable instrument for Martian exploration due to its proven durability and accuracy (not to mention it’s used in more scientific research on this planet than any other soil sensor).
Here is the video presentation that the Manipal team submitted as part of their competition entry. Skip to 4:10 to learn about the soil collection system that the HydraProbe is used in.